Being transparent a.k.a. open & honest when it comes to blogging is absolutely imperative in order for your readers to trust you & keep coming back. Recently I was reading a post someone wrote about a protein shake diet. I commented & asked: "how did you feel after the 7 days of trying the shake?" They responded that they hadn't tried the diet. Sooo... Was it sponsored? Did they just want to give people information? Was this an affiliate link? Was this a fad they were in trying? Was it an MLM? Either way, it left me confused.

In the United States it's required by law that you disclose whenever you are being sponsored or receive money or free items in exchange for posting. If you want to read up on the .com Disclosures, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a whole guide concerning the use of endorsements & testimonials in advertising, which basically addresses endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, celebrities, & bloggers.

social media basics

Disclosing isn't shameful

Bloggers need to support themselves somehow. However, the reader needs to be able to know whether you received something for free or you were compensated in some manner to write about a specific brand. It needs to be clear from the get go. There's nothing shameful about admitting that you were paid or received the item for free. Think of it this way: a brand wants to work with YOU because your blog rocks & fits their market! 

Disclose before & after

All too often do we read an enormous, positive, glowing review only to see that there's an asterisk at the bottom disclosing it was a paid post. There's nothing wrong with being sponsored or receiving products, but your readers should understand that you are being clear & conspicuous. It's recommended to mention something at the beginning of the post & then once again at the end. 

Respect your brand

Tell readers in the beginning of the post "This is a sponsored collaboration between myself & *X Brand*" & then have your disclosure once more at the end. If you want to be taken seriously, you must be open about where you're getting your products, whether you paid for it or you got it for free. It's better to respect the integrity of your brand rather than losing readers who don't come back because they're not sure if you're a reliable source.

Be transparent

If your makeup haul sounds like a giant ad with no disclosure, readers may be less inclined to stop by your blog again. Can readers trust you? Can they discern whether or not you're being truthful? If you genuinely love a brand, that's awesome. If you're writing a review because a company gave you product & you tell readers that you received money, that's awesome. If readers can't figure out whether you're being paid or got it for free, that's fishy. Be transparent.

Use certain words/phrases

Using words like "I bought" vs. "I received" can help your fans easily understand how you obtained your products. In my, Bath & Body Works Wallflower Review, I use words like "I spent" & "I scored a really good deal" so you can establish I paid for them myself. In my Aroma Naturals Review, I said "I received" early on, so you can immediately figure out it's not an item I personally paid for; I also add a disclaimer at the end of the post for clarity. Best practice is to disclose at the beginning & end of your blog post. Here's an example.

Questions to ask yourself:
1. Do readers understand the nature of my relationship with this brand?
2. What can I do to make my relationship more clear?
3. Do I have a disclosure included on the post?
4. Can I disclose at the beginning or in the top fold of my blog post?
5. Do I have a disclosure page so readers can learn more about the different types of for-profit options on my blog?

Readers love reviews, hauls, & knowing more about brands you enjoy. Just be truthful & your readers will love you & come back for more. Disclosing is something I've learned with time & I'm still working on perfecting it. Have you ever had/seen a questionable disclosure incident? What are your thoughts on blogger disclosures (or lack thereof)? :]

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